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Inbox: Can the Tigers compete for the AL Central?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers fans' questions
March 28, 2017

I think the same thing I thought when camp began: The Tigers need a lot of things to go right with their club (starting pitching has so far, J.D. Martinez's health has not), and they probably need the Tribe to struggle through a World Series hangover. The change since Spring

I think the same thing I thought when camp began: The Tigers need a lot of things to go right with their club (starting pitching has so far, J.D. Martinez's health has not), and they probably need the Tribe to struggle through a World Series hangover. The change since Spring Training is that Detroit seems to have the attitude to contend. I think a lot of guys realize it's their last shot to win, and they have a sense of urgency.
OK, Jason, I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: how do you REALLY feel about our bullpen for the coming season?
-- Paul Gross (@PGLocal4)

OK, Paul. I think this group is probably going to look different by the end of the season than it will on Opening Day, whether the Tigers are contending or not. Joe Jimenez is going to get a call at some point during the season, and he has the potential to be a game-changer. Bruce Rondon is at that sink-or-swim point where he either assumes a bigger role in the bullpen or fades into the background of Detroit prospects past. Shane Greene and Kyle Ryan both put up sneaky good performances amidst youthful struggles last year (the stats hitters put up against Ryan were really underappreciated), and they have the chance to fill roles.
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Scouts and Tigers people both seem to think Arcenio Leon could make an impact in the Majors, kind of like Al Alburquerque five years ago. There are plenty of questions, but at least there's more upside to this group than past ones.
The toughest adjustment could be what to do if Francisco Rodriguez struggles early: Ride him out, go to next veteran up with Justin Wilson, give Rondon another shot, or go young with Jimenez and let him learn on the fly?

Basically none. The same goes for an eight-man bullpen, or anything involving a 13-man pitching staff (they're not going six and six with starters and relievers). Manager Brad Ausmus ruled it out as Spring Training began.
First is the math: A 13-man pitching staff would mean a 12-man positional roster, which would mean a three-man bench -- with one of those positions going to backup catcher Alex Avila and another going to a utility infielder. If the Tigers open the season with a platoon in center or right field, that takes up a third spot. The Tigers want to keep Dixon Machado, who's out of options, and Andrew Romine. Between injuries and the center-field situation, the Tigers just don't have the setup for an extra pitcher.
Second, the Tigers aren't in a position to need the extra rest for their starters. Their longest stretch of games in April is 12 days, and that's before rain or snow wipe out a game or two. The only reason to carry six would be to shoehorn both Matthew Boyd and Anibal Sanchez on the roster, and they decided to do that by putting Sanchez in the bullpen.

Yes and no. They have enough relievers that at least one candidate will be left out and open at Triple-A Toledo. But for the Tigers and enough teams, there's no such thing as enough relievers. Depth has become a currency for clubs, because the average club goes through so many moves due to injuries, fatigue, scheduling and pure performance. The guy who might be an extra reliever in April could be a necessity by May.

I answered this on Twitter already, but there's no way the Tigers are signing Angel Pagan for $5 million, or even half that. He was a left fielder in San Francisco last year after posting a minus-20 in Defensive Runs Saved in center in 2015. At age 35, he's not going to play center in Comerica Park. It kind of resembles the Alex Gonzalez acquisition in Spring Training three years ago once Jose Iglesias was out for the year.
That would leave Pagan as a right-field fill-in for however long J.D. Martinez is out. And the Tigers aren't going to invest major money -- plus the luxury-tax impact -- into a short-term fill-in.

Expect the list of free-agent outfielders to grow this week as non-roster invitees in other camps exercise opt-outs. Robert Stubbs, for example, is back on the market after the Twins told him Sunday he wasn't going to make their roster. Even so, unless a surprise name hits the market, I'd be surprised if the Tigers sign anybody. They passed on a lot of those same names earlier, and I suspect they like JaCoby Jones more now than a lot of them.

The numbers didn't show it, but I thought Hicks had a nice camp. He showed he could handle Major League pitchers, and he flashed some decent power with the bat in workouts. He's coming off a good year at Triple-A Toledo, and he has a chance to work his way into a callup if James McCann or Avila are injured this season.

No idea. But Anthony Gose is left-handed, threw 95-plus mph in high school with a good breaking ball, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo and scouts, and he hit 99 mph with a throw from center last year. Put that resume on the market without the history, and he'd be a fairly coveted arm. If he has become depth in center and he wants to explore pitching again, why say no?

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.